A Dream Come True, the American experience

Ever since I was a child, I was wanting to ride an airplane. It made me curious how it looks and feels like thousands of feet up there seeing the clouds and the land and sea from above. I grew up in a family with relatives of going out and migrating in every parts of the world like the United Kingdom, Canada and most commonly in the United States. I used to see places from their souvenir items they gave me, most notably the hologram paperweight icon of Statue of Liberty and a big picture frame of San Francisco Bridge.

My late grandmother once told me to study hard and someday I can go to Canada all by myself. Years forward, things seem to be falling into places…almost there.

My ninth international travel was my first out-of-Asia trip posted several milestones and “first time experiences” in my life that I will be holding for a lifetime.

Honestly, I haven’t slept the night before my early morning flight. Mixture of excitement and anxiousness. One hundred days before my flight, I started my countdown using an app on my iPad. Lol.

Then the day came, the little boy who just wished for this day to happen, “is now coming to America”.

I traveled all by myself by Cathay Pacific Airways with layover at Hong Kong. This was my mom’s choice of airline since she is more confident with this. If not for my mom, I could only have China Airlines with stopover in Taipei which is 30% cheaper as per last check. Thank God, i never regret I used CX.

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Twenty hours total travel time including the two hour layover in Hong Kong was not a joke. I haven’t slept for my entire trip and enjoyed the in-flight entertainment of the airline all throughout. I had fun watching the GPS navigator of the plane, the below camera, and of course the hundreds of movies, in the comfort of my seat.

NEW YORK CITY

11:14AM EST, Nov 8 – The CX830 finally made its sweet landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport Terminal 7. I can’t still believe I made it here. The things I used to see in movies now brought to life.

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I was welcomed by chilly 8 degree Celsius as soon as I went out of the JFK airport. I was accompanied by my childhood friend and her cousin who picked me up.

We first went to Queens – a borough of New York City. I ate my very first meal at “Dallas Barbeque”. Serving is huge that I almost had leftover. Haha.

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After having a meal, we drove to their place at Fresh Meadows, a place in Queens, where they live. This was where I met my “Tita Dang” a long-lost Tita from church, a family friend. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality. Super. They toured me around Manhattan, which is locally known as – “The City” before they sent me to my hotel to check-in for fourteen days. My hotel was at 135 St., at YMCA Hotel.

Know the feeling being around Times Square LIVE? After just watching it in CNN or BBC every New Year’s Eve Ball Drop countdown? It was totally priceless!

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Lights, people, sirens, smell, aura, – were like saying… “Welcome to New York, Aeron!”

It took me two to three days to memorize the Metro Subway of NYC which was more complicated on my opinion than any of the big cities I’ve been to such as Tokyo in Japan or Seoul in Korea. Few things I just noticed were, NYC definitely do not have the most extravagant and advance subway facilities but they are efficient and comfortable enough to take you anywhere. You won’t get any cellular or data signal underground nor they have a free wifi (except for large stations such as 42nd Times Sq Station and Penn Station) unlike in Tokyo or Seoul that you can make calls or texts or surf the internet via your own data signal carrier while on the go even inside the train. To add, no one can still beat the punctuality of Tokyo trains!

Day by day as I started getting used to the ways of New Yorker, the black coat, the shoes, the walk, the attitude. New York, Nu Yowk.

In terms of cost of living, New York is the most expensive city in the United States; that is more than twice where I live right now. In a global aspect, NY is the standard base city where other cities are pegged.  However, NYC became a little bit cheaper in front of Tokyo metropolis.

New York is home to many many TV series,music videos and movies which are popular around the world. A walk to its streets and suburbs brings nostalgic syndrome that you might have seen these places before…

a. Empire State Building -paid entrance but it’s worth it. You can see Manhattan from above!

b. Times Square (M&M world, Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s BION) – Need I say more? The renowned New Year’s Eve countdown. (You can see it from my previous blog entry)

c. Statue of Liberty and Battery Park (Historical landmark)

d. Ellis Island (Historical landmark)

e. 5th Avenue (Shopping District, Apple Store, Macy’s) (Well, you can see it in the movies! The first Apple store with its glass interior and underground location! The largest retail market in the world)

f. Rockefeller Center (like the Empire State, it has paid entrance that is worth the experience, you can see Central Park from here. It was brown when I was there!

g. Chrysler Building – cool exterior architecture!

h. Central Park – i only went on the Upper West side but it was really Fall there.

i. Broadway District – my other Aunt (Auntie Evelyn) treated to a broadway show – Les Miserables at Imperial Theater!

j. New York Stock Exchange – by far, the largest bourse in the world!

k. One World Trade Center and 9/11 memorial – stunning modern structure and commemorative area.

l. Flatiron Building – film location, literally like an iron design.

m. The Trump Tower – owned by Donald Trump, a famous and successful profile in the finance world.

n. NY Public Library – film location as well.

o. Little Italy and Chinatown – a living proof that NYC embraced diversity by thousands of immigrants already blending and contributing on the taste and texture of the city.

p. Brooklyn Bridge and Heights – film location, famous landmark.

q. Columbia University and La Guardia College – renowned educational institutions in the world.

r. Serendipity Coffeeshop(Delicious trademark hot choco here! film location) and The Bloomingdale(soooo expensive! fil location) –

s. Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station – film location, old but nice archicture. Joyous greetings. Sad good byes.

t. Madison Square Garden (McGraw Hill Company) film location, renowned company and event center.

u. New York Film Academy – i only see it from the outside.

v. Jollibee in Queens – whoaaa. same food. different menu. double the price than in Manila.

w. Long Island City – the best wide angle view overlooking Manhattan skyline during the night.

x. St Peter’s Church – one of the largest Catholic church in the heart of Manhattan.

are just those few spots I went around NYC. One more good thing is that they are all accessible via the metro with little to no walk at all. Ofcourse, Liberty Island and Ellis Island can be reached via cruise.

In the short span of exploring the city, I easily understood why New York is praised as the capital of the world.

BUFFALO and NIAGARA

I rode a Delta Airline flight from NYC’s La Guardia Airport to reach Buffalo. It is the northern part of the New York State along side with Niagara. It took me almost an hour flight. It was also my first time to have a domestic flight and it happened in the United States. From the plane window I already some parts of the area covered by snow.

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By the time I went out of the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, the weather was frozen at 0C/32F but the sun was up. I waited for about an hour for a $2.50 bus ride to go downtown Buffalo where I can catch another bus to take me to Niagara. Travel time was a bit longer than taking a cab. But taking a cab was 70$ which was a no-no for a solo traveller like me. I met two Russian women aged roughly in their early 30s that I went with going to the Falls.

It took us almost two hours from airport to finally see the Falls! Unfortunately, mid-November was a slow season at the area. So you cannot see a lot of people. Most establishments were closed.

So, welcome to Niagara Falls, on a below freezing temperature overlooking Canada.

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And my first snow experience just happened…

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I can see Canada in my eyes. I am like less than a kilometer away. It is connected by the “RAINBOW BRIDGE”. You can cross it by bus, private vehicle and by just merely walking. But remember, it is an international border. Proper documents are required.

The US-Canada border is one of the largest in the world.

I stayed at George View Hotel overnight few steps away from the Falls. It is cheap but cozy. At the time of my visit, I am the lone guest of the hotel!!!

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Getting around Niagara. (Seneca Niagara, the only Casino on the American side of the Falls)

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I got a  two-hour delayed flight from Niagara to Chicago. Effect? I was not able to explore the downtown. My six hours layover time became useless. I went out of the airport and voila, the train that I should take already left. 😦 I was not able to pursue to go downtown as I have time constraint to catch my next flight. Chicago is just and only a connecting place on my itinerary. Though I hope I was able to explore it ven for few hours for places like the “Sears Tower” or “The Bean”.

CHICAGO

This was the coldest place I’ve ever been. It is also known as “Windy City”. I went out of Chicago O’hare International Airport and my eyes suddenly became very teary. My hands and face became numb. My phone died because of too much coldness. It’s –9C/15F with “feels like” -23C/-9.4F. Whoaaaa. My three layer thick clothing became useless. I barely stayed outside the airport for more than 15minutes. As I speak, there was a visible air coming out from my mouth. My lips dried quick. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Before I forgot to mention, Chicago uses Central Standard Time that is one hour late than Eastern Time(NewYork)

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ORLANDO

On my way to Orlando via American Airlines(AA) I met a Chinese teenager on a business travel. She sat on my assigned window seat. I just did her a favor and let her seat on the window side. I sat on the aisle side and there’s a seat between us. No one was there. She talked to me almost all the time. She came from a town in China few mins away from Hong Kong. She also rode CX to Orlando via Chicago. She added me on WeChat however, I was not able to see the request. I fell asleep later on as I was really tired. I rode my fourth plane in two days and got not enough sleep. This was a two hour journey as we are headed on the South East of America.

We arrived at Orlando International Airport in the evening. The airport is huge and really beautiful. We rode a mini train to go the main airport from the gates. She opted to ride a cab and I was looking for the bus station.

I stayed at Howard Johnson Inn at International Drive for three days. Main purpose of my trip? To see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios Florida. I was also hoping for more “subtle” and “normal” temperature because it is Southern and known for its beaches during summer. But I was wrong, I experienced as cold as 8C/46F here though it rose during late morning to afternoon to 18C/64F. Still, it’s worth taking a thick jacket and multi-layered clothes!

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I went back to New York with pride that among all those cities i recently visited in the U.S., New York City is by far the best! Nothing beats the diversity and the 24/7-always on-never sleep vibe of the city. Bright lights and the crowd are just among the few things I really like New York.

Waitttttt.. there’s more… PHILADELPHIA.

This was a bonus trip c/o my Tita Dang. We drove here with his son (John Rod).It was roughly two hours from NYC. It was one of the historical places in the U.S. It was where American Independence was decalred.

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Thank you Lord for this experience that is really memorable.

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